Holiday edition: Essential skills?

My 8-year-old just walked up to me with his clipboard and told me he was going to make a list of all the things I told him he "had to" learn to do before he was an adult. The things I told him when we started talking about it last week were:

  • Ride a bike
  • Play an instrument
  • Swim
  • Roast a chicken
  • Do laundry
  • Apologize correctly

Now that he ante'd up with the clipboard, I'm trying to think of other things I think are essential. But, of course, all our heads together are better than one.

So what are the things you think we should all know how to do by the time we reach adulthood?

Discussion of NurtureShock, Chapter 4 “Why Kids Lie”

We're talking about NurtureShock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman allsummer. One chapter every Friday. Jump in whenever you'd like. The first week we talked about Chapter 1 about praise.
The second week we talked about Chapter 2 about sleep. Last week we talked about talking about race with your kids. This week we're talking about why kids lie and how we're inadvertently promoting that.

This week's chapter is "Why Kids Lie," and I found it less of an "a-ha!" than any of the previous three chapters and more of an "oh, crap." Here's my super-sketchy list of the stuff they cover:

  • Most parents do no better than chance when asked to tell if their kids were lying (from videos of their kids talking about things that were either the truth or lies). These experiments have been done a bunch of times, and parents simply can't tell when their kids are lying, even though we're all convinced we can.
  • People think boys lie more than girls do, but they lie at the same rate.
  • Kids lie almost instinctively to make themselves look better and feel better, to get praise, and to be the center of attention. Basically, it's the same reasons adults lie without really thinking about it.
  • Even if you think your kid doesn't lie, your kid lies.
  • Kids hear us telling lies all the time, and think it's ok. They can't tell the difference between "white lies" and other lies. Telling someone you like her new haircut when you don't is the same to a kid as saying you didn't eat the last cookie when you did.
  • Kids also can't tell the difference between a lie and a statement that turns out not to be true. If you tell your child she'll see her friend at the playground and then the friend gets sick and doesn't come, that sequence is the same to a child as if you'd deliberately lied.
  • We reward kids for telling us what we want to hear. So there's no real benefit to telling the truth. Especially if the truth is going to get them in trouble, and the lie has little chance of being detected.

Essentially, we're all liars, and we're raising liars because we don't understand how they see our interactions, and because we reward them for telling us what we want to hear.

After reading this chapter I've started reexamining the way I phrase things with my kids so that when I'm not sure of an outcome I haven't promised something that won't necessarily happen. I'm also focusing more specifically on not penalizing bad behavior as much as I penalize lying about bad behavior. (A few weeks ago there was an incident in which I meted out a punishment and then a double-long punishment for lying. And then gave the opportunity to work off the punishment for the initial infraction, but the lying punishment had to stand. That was sobering, and I hope it had an effect, but I know I have to police my own behavior as much as anything else.)


Good things about divorce?

A few friends are going through divorces and are in the stage of feeling like there's nothing to look forward to and like it's going to stay this bad forever. And like things won't be good for their kids, either.

We've already talked here about some of the pitfalls to watch out for while divorcing to avoid hurting your kids. (I firmly believe that divorce does hurt kids. But I also think that that hurt can be far less than the hurt of having parents who stayed together when they should have been apart. It's all about minimizing damage and continuing the conversation.)

So can we talk about some good things about divorce? If you're in a divorce situation (whether you were legally married or not) as a parent or as a kid, please share something good that's come out of the divorce. It will help people who are struggling to find the hope in all of it.

I'll start:

I have my kids for three days, and then their dad has them for three days. When I dropped them off with him the other day, our youngest ran to him screaming "Daddy!!!!!!" like he was his hearts' only desire. When he sees me after three days he does the exact same thing. My older one has verbalized that he likes that he never gets "sick of us" now because he has just the right amount of time in a row to have fun with us. I can't even express how awesome that is.

When I'm with my kids I'm totally with them. When I'm not with them, I'm not. (I realize this is only the case because I never worry about how they're doing with their dad, and that I'm lucky about that.)

It has not turned out to be as difficult to take responsibility for my own (and only my own) emotions as I thought it would be.

I get to have the good aspects of dating without the biological clock ticking and without wondering "Are you The One???" about everyone that I even chat with and without caring if people like me. Remarkably freeing.

Now you, please.